For the first time, under the direction and initiative of His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrofan, and the Christian Education Committee of the Diocesan Council, the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Canada organized Holy Transfiguration Camp (HTC) at the diocesan headquarters in Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Milton, Ontario. One hundred Orthodox youth from Canada and the USA partook in a wide spectrum of activities commencing on August 6th, and concluding on August 10th 2018.
Youth, ranging from five years old to eighteen, organised in four camp teams dedicated to Serbian saints with North American ties (Sts. Mardarije, Nikolaj, Sebastian, and Varnava) prayed together, played together, and grew together. The theme of this year’s camp, as blessed by Bishop Mitrofan was ‘’prayer’’. During daily home-base gatherings, direct priest question-and-answer periods, and crafts, campers learned more about the importance of prayer in the life of an Orthodox Christian.
The camp culminated with lessons about the Holy Sacrament of Confession, where all children, and most volunteers, some of them for the very first time, confessed to our camp priests on Wednesday, in preparation for Holy Communion. On Thursday, visiting priests from the Eastern-American Diocese, Fr. Rodney Torbic, and Fr. Milorad Orlic, served Holy Liturgy at the Monastery Church, in the presence of Bishop Mitrofan. The campers, and staff, led by Fr. Milorad Delic, sang all the responses in Serbian, English, and Greek. All of the campers, many camp volunteers, and some visiting parents of campers received Holy Communion.
The daily comradery, pure love for the faith, and honest inquisitive minds of the campers were a constant inspiration to all the volunteers and clergy. This was truly an effort where the whole Serbian Orthodox community of Southern Ontario pulled together: the Circles of Sisters of Hamilton parishes (Barton and Nash), Mississauga, Oakville, and Kitchener daily delivered delicious snacks and meals for the camp; the councillors from Niagara, Waterloo, Kitchener, Hamilton, Oakville, Mississauga, and Toronto tirelessly worked to make this a memorable experience for the youth; the grounds volunteers cleaned the property throughout the week, and Dr. Drasko Malisic spent the whole week on the premises, maintain the highest standards of allergy, medical, and safety standards.
The camp would not have been possible without the many months of dedicated work of the members of the Diocesan Christian Education Committee, chaired by Bishop Mitrofan, Rajko Djurdjevic, and camp director Fr. Dejan Obradovic. Hundreds of hours of paperwork, behind-the-scenes administration, and preparations were done by Rada and Zorka Djurdjevic. Head councillor, Natasa Kolundzic, energetically planned outdoor activities for all the age groups. This is only to name a few who helped make this camp happen. There are tens more who have etched their names into the history of this diocesan camp by being a part of the first year. May God reward everyone’s efforts with blessings to them, and their loved ones.
Lastly, the clergy who volunteered a whole week of their busy schedules to make sure our youth got a first-hand contact with priests were truly inspirational. Frs. Milorad Delic (musical director), Radovan Kodic (grounds management), Dejan Obradovic (camp director), Djuro Samac, Milorad Orlic, and Rodney Torbic, led the camp in morning, meal, and dismissal prayers; ate, dialogued, and communed with the youth. These contacts will remain in the memories of all for the rest of their lives.
If a measure of success is the response from parents, and campers – then Holy Transfiguration Camp 2018 was an overwhelming achievement. New bonds were created among campers, volunteers, and priests. More importantly, through play and fun activities, we all became more aware of our bond with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The tremendous amount of work which went into making HTC 2018 a safe, insured, fully compliant with Ministry of Education of Ontario standards learning environment, all the while maintaining the interest of our youth with a balance on play, sport and crafts, was worth every second and expense.
Our campers and volunteers took home prayer beads (brojanice), crosses, and candles which they made, books which were kindly gifted to them, t-shirts and other parting gifts. All of these material things will get worn, damaged, or misplaced one day. However, the memories and relationships which were formed at Holy Transfiguration Serbian Orthodox Monastery, in the summer of 2018, are something which will last for the rest of our lives. May this be the first of many such endeavours, where guided by our Holy Church, gathered around our Bishop Mitrofan, and priests, we bring children, and each other, closer to God.
Fr. Jovan Marjanac